This Is How You Do It
I am shamelessly cribbing this from Charlie Pierce (and saving you the click):
And it's a mindset that believes that less government is the highest good no matter what. It's a mindset that says environmental rules designed to keep your water clean or your air clean are optional, or not that important, or unnecessarily burden businesses or taxpayers. It's an ideology that undervalues the common good, says we're all on our own and what's in it for me, and how do I do well, but I'm not going to invest in what we need as a community. And, as a consequence, you end up seeing an underinvestment in the things that we all share that make us safe, that make us whole, that give us the ability to pursue our own individual dreams. So we underinvest in pipes underground. We underinvest in bridges that we drive on, and the roads that connect us, and the schools that move us forward. And this is part of the attitude, this is part of the mindset.
We especially underinvest when the communities that are put at risk are poor, or don't have a lot of political clout and so are not as often heard in the corridors of power. And this kind of thinking—this myth that government is always the enemy; that forgets that our government is us—it's us; that it's an extension of us, ourselves—that attitude is as corrosive to our democracy as the stuff that resulted in lead in your water. Because what happens is it leads to systematic neglect. It leads to carelessness and callousness. It leads to a lot of hidden disasters that you don't always read about and aren't as flashy, but that over time diminish the life of a community and make it harder for our young people to succeed.
So it doesn't matter how hard you work, how responsible you are, or how well you raise your kids—you can't set up a whole water system for a city. That's not something you do by yourself. You do it with other people. You can't hire your own fire department, or your own police force, or your own army. There are things we have to do together—basic things that we all benefit from. And that's how we invested in a rail system and a highway system. That's how we invested in public schools. That's how we invested in science and research. These how we invested in community colleges and land grant colleges like Michigan State.
But volunteers don't build county water systems and keep lead from leaching into our drinking glasses. We can't rely on faith groups to reinforce bridges and repave runways at the airport. We can't ask second-graders, even ones as patriotic as Isiah Britt who raised all that money, to raise enough money to keep our kids healthy. You hear a lot about government overreach, how Obama—he's for big government. Listen, it's not government overreach to say that our government is responsible for making sure you can wash your hands in your own sink, or shower in your own home, or cook for your family. These are the most basic services. There is no more basic element sustaining human life than water. It's not too much to expect for all Americans that their water is going to be safe.
We are a growing, developing city with three million more people estimated to move into our region over the next 15 years. We are competing not just against Dallas, San Antonio and Austin; not just against New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but against Vancouver, Berlin and Singapore. We are an international city, speaking 142 languages, with 92 consulates and two international airports within our city boundaries.The revolution ain't waiting for the Millenials to grow up and take over, and it ain't looking for the senator from Vermont to lead it into battle. Just sayin'.....
We must be sure that the growth and prosperity reach all Houstonians. Unfortunately, that is currently not the case. We are becoming two cities in one: a city of many contrasts. There are signature parks like Hermann, Memorial and Buffalo Bayou, and there are neighborhood parks desperate for swings and playground equipment. There are neighborhoods with abundant retail, grocery and transit options, but there are also neighborhoods with food deserts, little or no retail and a dependence on public transit. There are areas that enjoy opportunity but oppose the addition of new multi-family housing. And then, there are communities where blue tarps from Hurricane Ike still dot the rooftops of single-family homes and many apartment complexes stand abandoned and open to criminal activity. I want to thank Councilwoman Stardig for being a champion in removing abandoned buildings and all council members for working to restore neighborhoods.
The revenue cap works against creating one Houston with opportunity for all and the ability to address pressing needs like flooding, transportation and mobility, parks and added green space, affordable/workforce housing and homelessness. Some may look at the homeless individuals on our streets and just see nameless faces. I, on the contrary, see mothers, fathers and children suffering from mental illnesses, substance abuse and other very personal issues. My administration will resist the temptation of ineffective fixes such as putting these people in jail. We will instead commit our energy to the long-term solutions that have helped our city lead the nation in addressing homelessness.
Let me tell you about George Aluoch, a homeless gentleman, who had been coming to the Houston Public Library Carnegie Center almost every week for six months. This homeless, dirty, unshaven man was an aircraft mechanic with years of experience with the Aerospace Center and the former Continental Airlines. A bad break happened and George ended up with nothing and on the streets. Library staff helped him edit his resume and apply for jobs. When he didn’t have money to print the resume, they printed it for him. They assisted in every way they could. George recently returned to the Carnegie Center to let them know that he had been offered a job and a signing bonus for a position in Oklahoma with an aircraft support company that provides services to aerospace and defense industries. He showed them his Greyhound ticket and said, “It’s over, and I am ready to go.” Library staffers Erika Arrington and Paula Loredo and their immediate supervisor is Cylenthia Hoyrd are here today. I want to thank them for treating Mr. Aluoch with dignity and respect.
Merely maintaining our momentum is not enough. I will work with the private sector, faith-based organizations and other nonprofits to achieve a long-term goal of effectively housing Houston’s homeless. We will do it, not for the NCAA Final Four or the Super Bowl, but because we are Houston, and we are a city of hope and opportunity.
When I was elected mayor, there were many who said I was coming into office at the worst time. They said the City is broke, has huge pension problems; the streets are in horrible condition, and the city is divided. They did not envy me. Now and then I ask myself what the Allen Brothers would say to those same people. What would Sam Houston or those who laid the blueprint for the medical center or the port or Johnson Space Center say to those people? I don’t know exactly what they would say, but I do know what Eddie and Ruby Turner would say, “Life is not fair, but you have to navigate through it and tomorrow will be better than today.” Though they did not graduate from high school, they knew the importance of education. Whether it was Encyclopedia Britannica or something else, they purchased books from every salesperson who knocked on the door. When I had to give a report in school about my summer vacation, I traveled through the pages of those books and wrote my paper as if we had actually gone. Facing challenges is our life’s story; creating opportunities is the reward.